Sunday, May 2, 2010

Story Elaboration

The doorknob broke. We fixed it.

For several weeks now, it's become increasingly difficult to get into our house. The front door has long had the idiosyncracy that some of us have keys that work instantly to unlock it, and some of us have keys that take 5 minutes of jiggling to work. I have a good key; Ari has a bad one. However, the latch that one has to push down in order to open the door once it's unlocked does not discriminate, and it became increasingly hard to push down. Ari took to karate-chopping it in order to get the door open; I simply went around to the back door.

The doorknob in the back had also been deteriorating over the past few weeks. Turning the doorknob didn't always have any effect on the bolt that holds the door shut, so one had to try several times. The average number of turns it took to get the door open increased gradually with time, until it took about 5-10 iterations to get the door open. My mother-in-law went to the hardware store to purchase new doorknobs for both the front and the back doors. Her attempt to remove the back doorknob was initially unsuccessful, and led only to the door being entirely unopenable, serving the same function as a solid wall. We began using the windows.

On Friday night, we were taking pictures for the cover of Ashes of Our Joy when we broke a window. Note that holding a battle axe (actually a sledgehammer, but he'll paint a battle axe for the cover) makes you less stable when balancing on a platform than you might expect, and it gets harder to avoid knocking a ladder into a window. The cleaning-up process involved several iterations of climbing through the unbroken windows in order to clean up the glass from the broken one, and we went to bed with a determination that Saturday would not end unless the doorknob had been replaced.

Saturday morning, I helped my mother-in-law remove the knob part of the doorknob, leaving the internal mechanism and bolt in place. The nature of its breakage was that the bolt was no longer attached to the mechanism, and thus no manipulation of the mechanism resulted in any motion of the bolt. The door was permanently stuck. My mother-in-law and I used an assortment of screwdrivers and hex wrenches to remove what we could of the internal mechanism until she had to leave for a bridal shower, whereupon Ari and I took over. He used his hacksaw to remove a portion of the mechanism, but the bolt would still not budge. When I suggested hacksawing through the bolt, Ari told me that it would take 2 hours and leave him sore for days. Nix that idea.

After breakfast, Ari and I worked together at getting the bolt out and the door open. A portion of the internal mechanism which we had accessed by removing another portion of the mechanism seemed to possibly have some effect on the bolt, so Ari left me to experiment (since I have a bit of experience with locks). I discovered that I could slightly retract the bolt using a screwdriver, but I didn't have enough leverage to hold it in a retracted position. The final solution was a combination of finesse and brute force. Ari hacksawed a notch in the top of the bolt, and I used a screwdriver to pull it back as far as I could while he hacksawed another notch in the bottom of the bolt. After several interations, the bolt would not retract any farther, but it still wasn't pulled back enough to get the door open. At this point, Ari inserted a screwdriver between the door and doorframe, and wedged the two apart. The door opened.

From there, it was easy - we followed the step-by-step instructions to install the new doorknob and rekey the lock. I resisted the temptation to dissect the doorknob to figure out how the rekeying process worked. Each member of our family can be heard exclaiming delightedly each time we use the door. Later in the afternoon, my inlaws repaired the front door latch with much less drama.

Doors are so much better than windows!


  1. Hehe! What a great story. I seem to remember your prowess with locks from your college days....hehe. :)

  2. I, too, thought immediately of your gardening skills!